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£1m gravity energy storage pilot system to be built in UK

11 May 2020

Gravitricity, the team behind a system that stores excess renewable energy in weights suspended above disused mine shafts, is set to build a £1 million demonstration of the technology after securing a land rental agreement in Edinburgh, UK. According to news website Business Green, Gravitricity plans to start building work on the project in October 2020 on an industrial site near the Port of Leith in Edinburgh.

Artist's impression of gravity energy site - Image: Gravitricity
Artist's impression of gravity energy site - Image: Gravitricity

The project will be the first working demonstration of the system once it is up and running in December. 

The idea behind the system is that excess energy from renewables when demand is low is used to lift heavy weights adding up to around 12,000 tonnes to the top of a shaft. These can then be stacked and released when demand is high, delivering energy rapidly back to the grid. This can be done many times a day for many years, without any loss of performance and makes it very competitive against other forms of energy storage – including lithium ion batteries.

In March 2020, the UK start-up won a £300,000 grant from Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme to assess the suitability of former mine shafts in South Africa with project partners, RESA Energy.

Business Green reports that the Port of Leith pilot project will trial the system at a small scale by using a 16-metre high rig that would use the port’s electrical network and grid connection to show the systems speed of response. The trial system will use two 25-tonne weights which will be dropped together at first to determine the system’s ability to provide full power to the grid. Gravitricity says that the system will go from zero to full power in less than a second.

The trial will last for two months and is supported by another Innovate UK grant. The pilot will help provide valuable data which will be used to assist in the development of Gravitricity’s first full-scale 4MW storage project which is planned for 2021, Business Green adds.

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